In recent years, MacArthur Park has become a favorite venue for fight-the-cops fringe groups, and that might explain why the police approached the gathering there with such an aggressive attitude. Rally organizers were keeping an eye out for the usual suspects who actively seeking confrontation. It's a logical assumption that the LAPD had similar intelligence about just such a possible provocation.
Whether or not that's the case, when perhaps 50 to 100 (Bratton's estimate) self-styled revolutionaries, some with bandanas covering their faces, in fact did split off from the peaceful rally, blocking the streets and peppering the nearby lines of riot-ready police with epithets and water bottles, the fuse was lighted. There are many and conflicting versions of exactly what happened. But there's no reason not to believe your eyes â€” or in this case, the video. There was clearly overreaction and indiscriminate use of force employed by the LAPD in shutting down the rally.
The firing of foam bullets at anyone except an identified violent target is against LAPD rules, and it is as unacceptable as sending a squad of baton-swinging cops into a park you know is loaded with families and children. Bratton admitted that none of the arrests made were related to the rounds that were fired. The sophisticated crowd-control training conducted at the academy went down the tubes as a "protect your fellow officer at all costs" frenzy apparently spread through the ranks.
When newspeople, hardly the most vulnerable victims of what transpired, get pushed, manhandled and in some cases struck with clubs, it's a red flag that the police action has spun dangerously out of control. Reporters were not unintended or casual victims caught in some chaotic give-and-take, as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has rather disingenuously suggested in his public statements. Firsthand accounts and numerous videos clearly show police officers roughing up journalists even as they unmistakably identified themselves as legitimate media (as if holding a $30,000 camera on your shoulder isn't proof enough).
To Bratton's credit, he was quick to arrive on the scene and to cancel his planned meet-up with the mayor in Central America. His day-after statement characterizing at least some of the actions carried out by his troops as "disturbing" and "inappropriate" is a refreshing departure from the sort of bunker-mentality denial that once prevailed at Parker Center.